Archive for May, 2020

May 25, 2020

The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side

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I’m sure many of you are experiencing the same time warp as I am. All the days seem to crunch together leaving me asking nearly every day, “Is today Monday?” The calendar tells me today is most certainly Monday and my blog schedule shows me I am, once again, neglectful in posting about our beloved Agatha.

The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side is, thus far, my favorite Marple mystery and I have quite a lot to say about it. I think it is the first of the Marple books that really explores the town of St. Mary Mead more than just a setting for a murder. Christie has a commentary on how the world has changed and that the village is now overshadowed by newer housing developments. Miss Marple, though intrigued by the modern homes, worries how their little local businesses will stay afloat now that a super market has been opened.

The story, published in 1963, shows that St. Mary Mead faced many of the problems we still have today. Large companies pushing out small businesses, newer developments designed to imitate the very small towns the development has destroyed, and the way the old is shoved aside to make way for the new, not just buildings, but people, too.

Miss Marple has been recovering from a bout of sickness. Her beloved nephew has hired a companion to assist his aunt. Though thinking she is acting out of kindness, Miss Knight, the new companion, treats Miss Marple is a demeaning way as if she were a simple-minded child. We all know Miss Marple is rather clever and far from foolish.

Christie never gives us Miss Marple’s age, but I estimate she would have been about sixty-eight years old in 1963. We know Jane Marple was a young woman during WW1, so I added it up as if she were twenty in 1915. Sixty-eight is not really elderly. In today’s world most people are still working at that age.

Miss Marple tells us that though she may look old, that’s not how she feels. She’s tired of being served soft food and reminded to take naps and not to get herself worked up. To me, the theme of the book is age, specifically women aging. In addition to Miss Marple we have the fading actress Marina Gregg. The mystery revolves around the actress and one of her fans, a middle-aged house wife. Marina, though struggling with an anxiety problem, worries she will be replaced by a younger actress if she can’t complete the movie. How easily these women can be shoved aside. Haven’t we all had that moment of feeling totally invisible?

Reading this book brought my grandmother to mind. My grandmother, Nana as we called her, was middle-aged and working as the lead dietitian at McCormick’s when I was born. She was roughly the age I am now. When I was about ten years old there was a handyman who came to our house to handle odd jobs.  I always knew when Mr. John would be coming to our house because Nana wore a nice outfit instead of her housecoat. She put on lipstick. She smiled a lot. It was obvious my grandmother had a crush on Mr. John. I was mortified. Wasn’t she too old to feel that way?FullSizeRender (50)

Now, here I am, all these years later, in the same stage of life she was in. What would I have thought if she had a cut out of Benny Goodman sitting on her desk as I do of Dave Grohl? Or if she’d turned up the radio and rocked out to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy like I did this afternoon when The Clash came on with Should I Stay or Should I GO?

I suppose we always visualize people at the age they are when we first meet them. My mom doesn’t seem much different to me and I think it’s because I’ve watched her age and didn’t just meet her at 55. In my head I’m a sixteen year old masquerading as an adult. With the exception of my knees cracking when I stand up, I feel very little about me has changed. Why is this a lesson only learned once we age?FullSizeRender (48)

I said at the beginning I had much to talk about regarding this book. Join me next week when we talk about the characters. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear which celebrities you would cast in the movie version. I watched the movie that was filmed in 1980. We can talk about that next week, too.

Please comment and let me know what you are reading in addition to the Christie books.

Have a good week and stay safe!

 

May 4, 2020

A Pocket Full of Rye

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Most mornings my breakfast looks like the photo above. Sometimes I vary it a little and have oatmeal or cheese toast, but one thing I never add is taxine. Poor Rex Fortescue wasn’t as lucky. I suppose if you live in a place called Yewtree Lodge you might expect your poison to come from nearby.  Taxine is a toxic chemical that comes from  Yew berries, needles or bark.

“Give me a decent bottle of poison, and I’ll construct the perfect crime,” is believed to have been said by Agatha Christie. Who would doubt it? She seems to use this method of murder more than any other in her novels. Her work as an apothecary’s assistant in the First World War in the local hospital dispensary gave her the knowledge she would later use in her mysteries.

This book is also the first of four titles that refer to nursery rhymes, this being the only one which features Miss Marple. Two other books are in the Poirot series and the third is a stand alone. She also uses nursery rhymes to title some short stories as well such as Three Blind Mice. I think that’s interesting considering most nursery rhymes aren’t as innocent as they seem.

I’m working my way through the seventh Marple mystery, 4:50 From Paddington, this week. No one has been poisoned… yet, but it does involve a train, something else that is frequently used by Miss Christie.

I had hoped to read one Poirot novel and one Marple a week, but things are not working out that way. I think I’m going to complete the Miss Marple series first then pick up the Poirot mysteries where we left off. I hope some of you are able to check out the mysteries on film if you’re unable to read the novels.

Keep reading and stay healthy!